Religion PhD Programs with Curriculum Summaries

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Religious Studies is a graduate program that introduces students to advanced theoretical and historical topics in theology and comparative religion. Take a look at the curriculum and requirements for these programs below.

Essential Information

Ph.D. candidates in a religious studies program are trained in a rigorous scholarly fashion. Students' self-chosen concentrations serve as the center of their research and often become their thesis topics. The nature of 4-year religious studies Ph.D. programs is academic rather than religious, in the sense that these programs do not directly train ministers or spiritual leaders in faith organizations. To gain entrance to these programs, students will be required to hold a bachelor's or master's degree in religion or a related field, have previous coursework in the core topics covered, and be able to speak a foreign language that is relevant to their research interest. Students are allowed to specialize within their programs, in areas such as African religions, Hindu studies and Jewish studies.

Ph.D. in Religious Studies

Religious studies doctoral degree programs are research-based degree programs that prepare students for work in an academic or a scholarly setting. The curriculum usually combines seminar-style courses in some of the following subjects with intensive research. Students must complete an original thesis (also called a dissertation) and defend it orally before graduating. In addition to traditional theology topics, students may also find coursework in:

  • Comparative religious ethics
  • Religion and social science
  • Interpreting scriptures
  • Religion and philosophy
  • African-American religions
  • Philosophy of Buddhism

Popular Career Options

Graduates of Ph.D. programs in religious studies may pursue careers in educational institutions or scholarly settings, such as a university library. Below are some of the careers for which a Ph.D. program in religious studies may prepare students.

  • Religious studies university professor
  • Religion historian
  • Head of research at a religious institution
  • Theological seminary teacher

Ph.D. programs in religious studies are not designed for those who want to become religious leaders, but for those who want to study religion in an academic context. After the completion of their degree, graduates may find work as educators in universities or other scholarly positions.

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